Thursday, September 24, 2020

Undercrown Maduro & Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

Continuing the fire pit and power outage story… 

After rebuilding the fire, I headed inside to grab another smoke and a beer. The second cigar choice for the early evening was the Liga Undercrown Maduro from Drew Estate. This cigar has been mentioned before in these Musings and is a long-standing favorite.



I enjoy the Undercrown Maduro in the 5" x 54 Robusto size. The cigar wears a Mexican San Andrés Maduro wrapper, a Habano Connecticut binder, and Brazil Mata Fina and Nicaraguan Habano fillers. It's a creamy smoke featuring notes of rich espresso, cocoa sweetness, and a hint of dark fruit.

Returning to the cellar, I dug out a bottle of Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout from the Winter 2006-2007 bottling. For many years we were very good about buying bottles of this brew each year to stash away. Unfortunately I've let that slip the past few years, and we've also worked through the older bottles. This 14 year old was the most senior of the stash.

The beer still maintains a rich aroma as well as good carbonation. The flavor profile retains its richness as well. There's a mildly bitter, semi-sweet chocolate overall profile. Notes of coffee, vanilla, and some nuttiness come through as well. The 10% ABV is wholly undetectable on the palate. 



The combination of the dark, semi-bitter beer, along with the espresso and chocolate notes of the cigar made for a delectable pairing. Sadly, after a few hours of the ongoing power outage, I had to leave the comfort of the fire in order to turn on the generator. Now I had the hum of generators both in the distance, and up close, disturbing the peacefulness of the evening.

Eventually the power was restored, thankfully earlier than the resolution time initially broadcasted by the power company. Leaving the fire burning, we retired to the house for a late dinner. After dinner Colleen did a little baking and I returned the yard. Not desiring the time around the fire to come to an end, I stirred that coals and put on a few more logs. Colleen soon joined me and we stared into the fire until late in the evening. And now my wood pile was suddenly very empty.

The long afternoon and evening by the fire was a great way to mark the last weekend of the summer. I do think our time spent out back disrupted some of the local deer who like to bed down in the yard overnight. I could hear rustling in the woods on occasion and the light from my flashlight was reflected back by green orbs staring back at me. At least I am going with the assumption those were deer.

The End

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Barrel Aged Cigar & Two Stout Beers

We got the first fire of the season going last Sunday. The last weekend of the summer was cool enough for a fire to be enjoyable, yet still warm enough to not require bundling up. After a late brunch I uncovered the woodpile and prepped the pit. Looking at the amount of wood left from last season, I estimated I had enough for two fire pit sessions before needing to restock. 

After lighting the fire, I grabbed an older stick from the humidor. I've been eying my last Camacho Imperial Stout Barrel Aged stick for some time, and finally brought myself to light it up. These were a limited, one time release, but cigars are meant to be smoked, not just admired. 



The story behind the cigar reads like a travelogue. The barrels used in the aging of the tobacco for this blend first housed bourbon at Heaven Hill Distilleries. The barrels were then sent to Oskar Blues Brewery in Colorado to age their Imperial Stout beer. Next, the barrels were then shipped to the Camacho factory in Honduras. There, the company’s signature tobacco, Honduran Original Corojo, was aged inside for a minimum of six months. The cigar is comprised of 100% Maduro tobaccos. The wrapper is Mexican San Andrés. The binder and fillers include the barrel-aged Honduran Corojo, along with Brazilian and Dominican tobaccos.

As soon as I lit the cigar, I really had few regrets about burning my last one. I knew it would be as enjoyable as I remembered. The 6" x 50 Toro is tightly packed, with a slightly restricted draw, but still produces copious flavorful smoke. Dark, rich roasted coffee and dark chocolate predominate, with a touch of sweet vanilla coming through as well. 

To go along with the stick, I also dug deep into the beer stash and pulled out a Stone Brewing 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout. The bottling date stamped on the bottle is 01/15/16. The beer features roasted malt with a sweet, toasted bread graininess. The beer is moderately bitter with a full mouthfeel. It was an excellent match for the flavors of the cigar.

The warm fire added to the enjoyment of the rich beer and cigar. As this would be a nearly two hour smoke, I headed back to the basement to dig for another old beer. I came up with a bottle of Smuttynose Imperial Stout, this one bottled way back in 2006. 



As expected, this stout also paired well with the Camacho cigar. The beer featured roasted malts, dark chocolate, coffee, and some hints of dark fruit. There was very little in the way of hop bitterness. The mouthfeel was creamy and smooth, with a dry aftertaste. After cellaring for fourteen years, the carbonation was still moderate.

As Colleen and I chatted and continued to enjoy the fire, we became aware of the sound of generators in the distance. Soon after that, I received a text notification that our house was without power. At that point, there was little left to do except to feed the fire, grab another cigar to smoke and pull another old beer from the cellar. Apparently I'll need to restock the wood pile sooner rather than later.

To be continued …

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Sam Adams Octoberfest & Hamlet 25th Anniversary

After a fun IDPA match Saturday morning, Colleen and I sat outside during the afternoon to enjoy a beer, some reading, and the cool sunshine. I opted to try a Hamlet 25th Year Robusto. I'm a fan of Hamlet cigars, especially the Tabaquero, but I've never tried this one. The master roller at Rocky Patel, Hamlet Paredes is known for putting out full bodied cigars, but the 25th Year breaks that mold by featuring a mild profile. Hamlet calls it "a cigar for the everyday smoker."

One of the likely reasons I've passed by this cigar in the past was the mild flavor description. I generally prefer medium to full bodied smokes, although I'll grab a milder smoke to have with coffee in the morning. That was my intent when I purchased the 25th Year, but this afternoon my curiosity got the better of me and I opted to try it out. 

The 5½" x 50 stick is wrapped in a golden brown Ecuadorian Habano leaf. The binder is Pennsylvania broadleaf, with Nicaraguan and Honduran fillers. The flavor kicks off with a mild cedar and pepper spice over mild chocolate and creamy coffee. The spice decreases in the later stages, while the chocolate and coffee notes gain an even creamier aspect.



The beer selection for this cool day was Sam Adams Octoberfest. I've been enjoying this seasonal for the past few weeks as it's one I look forward to each year. The caramel and bread sweetness, spiced with just a touch of hop bitterness offers a refreshing drink. 

The malt of the beer stepped on the flavors of the mild cigar to some degree. While I enjoyed the flavors put off by the well-constructed cigar, they were just outside my wheelhouse, and didn't hold my interest in the last third. That, combined with the growing chill in the air as the sun dropped below the trees, led me to abandon the stick with a couple inches left. Despite that, I have no doubt that I'll light another when the appropriate setting and mild cigar mood strikes.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Rivanna IDPA

It was a cool morning as I headed to Charlottesville to shoot the monthly IDPA match at the Rivanna range. It's been a while since we've had a cool weather match, and I had mixed feelings about being reminded (again) about the impending months of lower temps. Nonetheless I was looking forward to shooting the match and visiting with friends.

All four stages this month involved little movement, other than some leaning to see around obstacles. Although I prefer movement stages, the stages were both fun and challenging. The first stage had us facing three tiers of target groups, each with three threat and two non-threat targets in a line. The groups were shot near to far.



It so happened that the shooting order had me following a multi-division Grand Master USPSA and Master IDPA shooter. That invoked no small amount of "no pressure" joking from my squad mates, and even the SO. In truth, I think the situation took some of the pressure off my shooting since I had no stress whatsoever of matching his speed. He was fun to watch and learn from though.

I got my match off to good start, shooting just one down with a raw time of 15.55 seconds, which was still almost twice a slow as the GM's raw 8.67!

The next stage had six targets placed at varying distances, with a couple non-threats up close to shoot around. We started the stage by using both hands to knock over a target stand placed right in front of the shooting box, blocking the view of the targets.



After the requisite "no pressure" ribbing, my turn came and I shot the stage just one down. Or so I thought at first. Upon closer examination, I saw I had knicked a non-threat, apparantly with my "throwaway" 11th shot on the fifth target, likely from moving too quickly to get to the reload and next target. Despite that, I was still pleased.

Rounding the corner to the third stage, we spied the infamous red pickup truck that always adds a bit of challenge and interest to a stage. I has been a while since I've seen this prop towed out. The loaded gun was placed in the truck bed, and all shooting was done from a small area behind the real wheel. There were five threat targets to engage with three shots each, and two non-threats to avoid. The placement of the non-threats, brought them into play on every shot. I shot the stage down 2, and was pleased to avoid the penalty targets.



The last stage had an interesting setup and stage brief. There we saw a simple line of nine distant and open targets, spread in a row with the targets getting closer to us toward the ends of the row. (Aaargh, no picture.) The twist was that the arrangement was meant to represent two assailants moving in opposite directions in an effort to flank the shooter. The targets were to be shot far to near, which also meant swinging back and forth to shoot opposite sides of the array. 

I'd had a pretty good match up to this point. Sadly, the wheels fell off the bus on this stage. We had a lot of time to watch shooters on the stage, and I witnessed a number of raised fingers indicating PE's when a shooter engaged the targets out of order. My time leading up to my turn to shoot was focused on shooting order — I didn't want to be one of those. Fortunately I shot without error. Unfortunately I focused too much on what target was next, and not enough on my sights. I made all the hits on paper, but finished -11 points for the stage. Even while shooting there were times I thought about a make up shot, but I think my brain was too focused on where I would shoot next. Still it was fun.

A combination of quick stages and low attendance, meant we finished shooting in about two hours. The stages were all interesting. Despite a couple errors, I managed 11th of 41 overall, and 4th of 22 SSP. It goes to show, "stand and shoot" can be interesting AND challenging. The weather was pleasant and the people were fun. All in all, a great way to spend a Saturday morning on the last official weekend of summer.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Wynwood Hills Unhinged, a Porter, and the Wood Stove

The weekend was kicked off with a few hours Friday evening spent in the Olde Towne Tobacconist lounge at 1781 Brewing. It had been a couple weeks since I visited and I was looking forward to seeing what was new in the humidor. After filling my mug with Washington's Hare Porter, I headed into the lounge where the proprietor was helping another customer, but she immediately looked over and remarked "I've got some new cigars for you to try." Now, I was excited. 

Shortly, I had received the run down on a number of interesting options for my smoke. I settled on the Wynwood Hills Unhinged. This 4½" x 50 Robusto is one of a series of three cigars in the Wynwood Hills line from C.L.E Cigars. Unhinged features a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. The binder and filler are Honduran and Dominican.




The dark brown, mottled stick gave off plenty of medium-bodied smoke. Notes of leather, cocoa, and a pleasing earthiness paired well with the caramel sweetness of the porter. The cigar had an enjoyable and robust, but not overwhelming, flavor profile.

This was one of the first truly cool evenings this season. As such the wood stove in the lounge was fired up. I really don't look forward to cold weather, but I sure do enjoy sitting around the fire. The combination aromas of cigar smoke and a wood fire are a pleasure to the senses. 

After a couple pints and the stick finished, I returned to the humidor to grab a couple sticks to go. Another of the options presented to me at the start of the evening was a new cigar from Black Label Trading Company. Super Deluxe is a cigar that shipped just this month in very limited quantities. I grabbed a couple and am looking forward to trying them out soon. 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Morning Coffee and AVO Cigar

An early morning cigar is a rare treat. An early morning cigar, and a view like this is an even more special time. During a recent long weekend "escape" to a mountain farmhouse, I rose before the rest of the house, made a cup of coffee, and sat down to enjoy the view and watch (and listen to) the cows arrive in the fields.

Among the cigars packed for the trip was this AVO Unexpected Celebration. The Unexpected lineup consisted of four "new" releases that AVO shipped last year. As was later revealed, the cigars were actually a rebanding of existing blends. Celebration is a 6" x 54 Toro with an Ecuadoran wrapper and binder and filler tobaccos from the Dominican Republic. After rolling, the cigars were aged for six years before being released. As it was later deduced, the blend is actually a relabeled AVO XO. 


The Celebration is a medium-bodied smoke that surprised me with a bit more flavor than its appearance indicated. The flavors off the bat were creamy and earthy with some light bitter chocolate and cedar. As the smoke progressed toward the middle, the flavors mellowed a bit, and I was thinking I was in for a boring smoke the second half. However, as the last third approached both the spice and sweetness ramped up a bit and kept things interesting. The hour plus smoke was enough for a couple cups of rich, black coffee. 

Soon the cows had moved on to other pastures and the household was stirring. It was time for breakfast and whatever the day's activities had in store. I do long for more mornings like that though.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

CAO Flathead and Henry McKenna

To start a long weekend recently, I grabbed one of the CAO Flathead 660 sticks and the remains of a bottle of Henry McKenna 10 Year Bottled-in-Bond. It was a great, though bittersweet, pairing. 


The CAO stick is one I've been pairing with my whiskey lately. It just seems to go so well. The full bodied smoke treats one to notes of semi-sweet chocolate and espresso. The burn typically needs some help to stay even on the square box-pressed stick, but this evening it burned extremely well, despite the ultra-high humidity from the heavy rain that was falling.

The Henry McKenna bourbon has gotten several mentions in these Musings previously. It's a whiskey I also enjoy frequently. After the bourbon won the Best in Show Whiskey at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, it's gotten harder to find. Sadly, on this occasion the bottle finally gave its last, and my supply is gone. I'll need to keep an eye on the store shelves for a chance to restock.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Pikesville Rye and BLTC Bishops Blend

On a recent evening, I was looking for a strong and flavorful beverage with which to sit and relax. Opening my liquor cabinet, the obvious choice was Pikesville Rye. This one of my favorite ryes, but one that I enjoy rather infrequently, in no small part due to the 110 poof bottling. The obvious choice to accompany such a bold whiskey was another bold favorite, Black Label Trading Company 2020 Bishops Blend

 


Historically, Pikesville Rye was first produced in Maryland as far back as the 1890's. Prohibition killed the Maryland rye industry, the lone exception being Pikesville Rye. No longer produced in Maryland, this historical recipe is now made in Kentucky by Heaven Hill. Exhibiting a brilliant copper color, the rye looks as good as it tastes. Rich honey and caramel is backed by the strong spiciness of rye. The 55% ABV is noticeable but smooth and palatable. 

The 2020 limited release of Bishops Blend from Black Label Trading Company is one that's gotten a couple mentions here recently. It's one of my favorite cigars from 2020. I almost cringe when I light another of my dwindling stash, but cigars are meant to be smoked and enjoyed, not sit in a humidor being admired. 

Bishops Blend features an Ecuador Habano Maduro wrapper, Ecuador Habano binder, and a blended filler of Nicaraguan, Connecticut broadleaf, and Pennsylvania broadleaf tobaccos. The smoke features full bodied notes of coffee, cocoa, dark fruit and pepper.

I smoked this one down almost to burning my lips and fingers. Despite any numbness brought on my the rye, I played it safe and put it down before any ill effects. I'll certainly keep my eye out for a chance to restock before they are all gone from the store shelves.